Nog finds it difficult to return to duty in the episode that originally ran on December 30, 1998. This is It’s Only A Paper Moon.

The Episode:

Station Log Stardate undetermined: It’s Only A Paper Moon

After being treated for his injuries and returning to DS9, Ensign Nog finds it difficult to cope with his new condition and soon finds himself hiding from reality in a holosuite program.

The Breakdown:

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Returning to DS9 after the events of AR-558, Nog finds it difficult to accept the celebration of his return to the station. With a new leg and placed on indefinite medical leave, it is clear that Ensign Nog is dealing with more than just the loss of his limb.

During a counseling session with Ezri, Nog makes it clear he just wants some time alone. Although his bio-synthetic leg is working perfectly, Nog is embarrassed to admit that he feels he needs a cane. Leaving Nog alone as requested, Ezri informs Captain Sisko that it is important to let Nog find his own treatment to get better. Meanwhile, Jake finds it impossible to live with his roommate who insists on playing the same song over and over in order to sleep. Nog, knowing he will not get any comfort in his own quarters, heads to the holosuites to visit Vic Fontaine. On his way there he finds himself reliving the moments of the loss of his leg.

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Upon arriving, Nog requests the song ‘I’ll be seeing you’ as it helped him once ‘when he was unhappy’. Vic graciously obliges giving Nog a moment of solace as he remembers hearing the song back on AR-558. He has since connected the song with being at peace and asks Vic to play it over and over in 15 different arrangements throughout the night. After the performance, Vic has a candid conversation with Nog about his leg. Nog confides in the holographic singer that his leg hurts despite the doctors telling him it simply isn’t possible as the pain receptors are not activated. Nog, in constant pain, just wants some reprieve and, as he is about to leave, the young Ferengi realizes he doesn’t want to go back to his life. Nog asks Vic if he can live with him during his rehabilitation and Vic graciously obliges.

Soon Rom, Jake and the rest of Nog’s friends bring the issue to Captain Sisko believing that the young Ferengi has lost his mind. Julian and Ezri ask Sisko and Quark to allow this to play out so that Nog can find a way to heal. Acknowledging the issue, Ezri speaks to Vic about the situation and the holographic singer accepts the challenge.

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Vic, knowing that Nog will just allow himself to waist away watching movies, gifts the young Ensign with a special cane and asks him to join him in the club. Nog agrees and, dressed up, ventures into the club where Vic is performing. Soon, however, things go south when Jake and his date arrive causing Nog to strike out at his old friend when the Ferengi perceives Jake’s date as being rude about Nog’s leg. Jake calls his old roomate out for being rude only to be attacked by him. Vic breaks up the fight and send Nog back to their room.

Back in their room, Vic explains that he is dissapointed in how Nog acted but soon manages to get the Ferengi’s mind off of things by giving him the clubs books to work on. Vic comments that he is not used to his program running so long and finds himself tired. Before long, Ezri arrives and asks Vic to wean Nog off of the holosuite program as soon as possible. She feels it is time for him to go but is prevented from that when Nog informs her that, according to Starfleet protocol, he can spend his leave anywhere he likes.

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Soon Nog informs Vic that not only are his books clean but the hologram has enough money to expand his casino. Following the Ensigns lead, Vic works with him slowly letting him regain his confidence. Soon Ezri notices Nog using his cane less and less while doing business in the holosuite. As Ezri comments on his efforts, it soon becomes apparent that Vic has become accustomed to Nog’s presence and is reluctant to let Nog return home. Realizing this, Vic asks Nog to return to his real life as Nog has begun living his fantasy life in place of his real one. Nog is reluctant to return to his ‘real life’ and feels he needs more time. Vic, knowing he can’t convince Nog to leave, ends the program leaving the Ferengi alone.

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Chief O’Brien soon finds Nog desperately trying to reactivate Vic Fontaine’s program. Informing him that Vic can control his own program, Miles leaves and Vic appears. Begging Vic to reactivate the program, Nog confides in the hologram that the young Ensign is scared to return to the real world. The loss of his leg woke the young Ferengi up to his own mortality and Nog has found solace in the imaginary world of Vic’s nightclub. Vic convinces his frightened friend to return to the real world, without his crutch, holographic or otherwise.

Sometime later, Nog returns to Vic to thank him for his efforts. Nog has returned to limited duty and has a surprise for the lounge singe, he has made arrangements for Vic’s program to be run 26/7 from now on allowing Vic and his world to continue to exist unhindered and unending.

Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:

It is rare in this series that we see the aftermath of a significant character event. In STNG we saw people loose children, loose families, get kidnapped and brainwashed, even experience life changing events only to go right back to square one the very next episode. While DS9 does a better job not pushing significant events under the rug, it still had it’s share of life altering events that were largely ignored. So, when Nog lost his leg it would have been easy for the writers to simply make mention that he had a new one and move on, but they didn’t and we received one of the best character driven stories this season.

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Nog has certainly been through a lot. From being the nephew of a fairly sucessful businessman to finding himself wanting more, Nog has been one of many subtle but important journey’s in the story of Deep Space Nine. Prior to this series no one would have imagined a Ferengi serving in Star Fleet let alone being a member of the Federation. Their natural demeanor goes against most of the basic principles of the Federation itself yet due to the influence of a Captain and his son, the young Ferengi named Nog did just that. Effectively separating himself from his own people while venturing into a new life, Nog went in believing that he could do anything. In that belief, Nog soon found himself with a little bit of an immortality complex when the unexpected hit him, quite literally.

Loosing his leg after watching so many of his friends and companions die in war hit Nog like a ton of bricks. For so long he felt that he was nearly untouchable, that no matter the odds he would survive to fight another day. However, the loss of his leg made him all too aware of his own mortality giving him a much needed , and rather sudden, jolt into reality. With holographic technology the way it is in the Star Trek future, for someone who’s reality has been shaken, it is no wonder that Nog chose to retreat into the fabricated universe the holosuites could provide.

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Since holodeck addiction was thoughtfully addressed with Lt Barclay on TNG, the idea that someone would use the technology to escape a painful event is not unexpected. In fact, I really cant imagine anyone not being tempted to try to escape seeing that the worlds created can be indistinguishable from our own. For Nog, however, it is even deeper that just addiction, this is his only perceived way in dealing with what amounts to a serious case of PTSD.

For those of you not aware, PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and, while common in military veterans, is something that anyone who experiences an extremely stressful situation can develop. During the episode we see first hand some of the signs that sufferers of PTSD go through. From Nog’s flashbacks to the traumatic event to feeling detached from his friends and family and even avoiding things and people that remind him of AR-558, these and more represent some of the most poignant signs of this syndrome. Actor Aron Eisenberg’s depiction of the disorder is very accurate and frankly just shows just how great an actor this man is. Throughout the episode there in never a moment that seems disingenuous in his performance and, coupled with James Darren’s portrayal of Vic, the two of them carry the episode perfectly.

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All in all, this is a genuinely great episode that not only drives some significant character development for Nog but also gives us a rather personal view into the daily struggles of a Star Fleet officer. While much of Star Trek is about the optimistic future, this shows that even in a bright future there will always be struggles to overcome. While I have some issues with the way the character of Vic Fontaine treated in this series, I have to say, this is one of my favorite story driven episodes.

Gleanings and Cool Bits:

  • We only see Worf appear in the beginning of the episode which is accurate as he was probably away with the Enterprise for the events of Star Trek Insurrection during this story. How Picard convinced Sisko to allow Worf to be temporarily assigned to another command during a war is unknown.

PTSD is a real thing and many people suffer it without realizing what it is. Many people go diagnosed due to either being uninformed or due to the manifestations of symptoms themselves. If you are or know someone who has experienced a significantly stressful event please seek help as soon as possible. Many people who suffer and go untreated find themselves facing thoughts of self harm and even suicide. Remember, there are always people available to help.

If you do not have someone who can help you personally please dial 911 or call a suicide hotline number at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line. For symptoms and a full description of PTSD you can find more information here from the Mayo Clinic.

Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Prodigal Daughter

If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

Late To The Game 2/26/2020

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Ad for the little known series that spun out of DS9 not long after it ended. Needless to say, it didn’t last long.

Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.

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